2019 Rising Star Winner - Nokia's Michael Murphy

Michael Murphy, CTO, North America, Nokia(Source: Nokia)

The FierceWireless editorial team has done it again. We’ve selected a slate of wireless executives who are on the rise. For 2019 we’re doling out the names of our winners, two per day, so that our readers have the time to enjoy reading their profiles. Next week, we’ll post our popular Rising Stars poll, giving everyone the opportunity to vote for their favorite top executive to watch in wireless. 

As Nokia guides its carrier customers through the sea change that is 5G, the vendor has high expectations of its CTO for North America, Michael Murphy. But no one has higher expectations of the Canadian mathematician than Murphy himself.

“I really pride myself to never be wrong – that’s my goal,” Murphy said, without a trace of irony in his voice. “I think I’m very well known as the analytical guy who studies very complex topics and tries to present a simple view of where things are going.”

RELATED: Nokia’s North American CTO warns of ‘LTE exhaust,’ need for 5G 

For more than a year, Murphy has been saying that LTE will not be able to keep pace with customer data demand, meaning that operators will have to deploy 5G to keep up. Now he’s also noting that 5G device uptake is too slow to relieve the pressure on LTE networks, and he said operators will need to evolve their existing networks in order to meet demand.

“LTE has to keep going for quite a long time. It will dominate toward 2023 in terms of data demand, and I know everybody is not thinking that way,” Murphy said. “I get challenged on this a lot. But with the analysis it is actually very provable. You have to keep evolving LTE over the next 5 years.”

Murphy and his team will be a big part of that evolution. He said his primary job is to optimize Nokia’s product portfolio to meet customer needs. An important element of that job is looking into the future and forecasting the direction that network architecture should take. He presents his forecasts to analysts, the media, and most importantly to customers. 

With Nokia’s customers, Murphy reins in his determination to never be wrong. He said sometimes customers disagree with him, and that typically “we see where either side has a difference of opinion and then come to a common agreement.” It’s a formula that seems to be working; Murphy has been in his role for more than five years, and he said customers value his transparency. “There’s nothing behind the scenes going on,” Murphy said. “What you see is what you get.”